NEW DELHI: India has issued new rules barring foreign gay couples and single people from using surrogate mothers to become parents, drawing sharp criticism from gay rights advocates and fertility clinics.
Commercial surrogacy is a booming industry in India and in recent years ranks of childless foreign couples looking for a low-cost, legally simple route to parenthood have been joined by gay couples and singles.
The measures, circulated to Indian missions abroad in late 2012, which only came to light in the Indian media yesterday, mark the first step to the regulation of “surrogacy tourism” in India.
The rules say foreign couples seeking to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in India must be a “man and woman (who) are duly married and the marriage should be sustained at least two years”.
The rule changes, posted on the home ministry’s website, were denounced by fertility clinics and gay rights activists as “discriminatory”.
“Parenting is everybody’s right and now we’re withdrawing that right,” said Dr Rita Bakshi, who heads the International Fertility Centre in New Delhi.
“These rules are definitely not welcome, definitely restrictive and very discriminatory,” she said. “This is a huge heartbreak for homosexual couples and singles,” commented fertility doctor Anoop Gupta.
Gay rights campaigners also denounced the changes to the rules on surrogacy, which was legalised in 2002.
“It’s totally unfair — not only for gay people but for people who are not married who may have been living together for years and for singles,” Mumbai gay rights advocate Nitin Karani said.
India is a popular destination for gay couples seeking children even though it remains a largely conservative country and only decriminalised consensual sex between homosexuals in 2011.
The home ministry would not comment on the changes which stipulate that would-be parents provide proof that their home country will give citizenship to any baby born of a surrogate mother.